Thursday, February 11, 2010

227 - The big deal about swear words


When I was a kid, maybe around five, six or seven years old, my mother used to tell me to 'Stop that crap!' when I misbehaved or said something incredibly heinous. This was the first 'bad word' I can remember myself being exposed to, and since I had the vocabulary of a seven-year-old, I took the word 'crap' and associated it quickly to the most accessible word that sounded the most similar - 'crab'. I literally, for a couple of years, thought my mother was telling me to 'Stop that crab!', thinking it was a combination of her non-native accent that interchanged the 'p' and the 'b' sounds, and that crabs had notoriously demonstrated naughtiness in some ancient Chinese folktale.

See, the word 'crap' isn't so bad, right? I haven't offended anybody, have I? (Actually, seriously, have I?)

Often, it can be awkward though when you're cussing, especially when you're on Facebook or on these blogs and you know your family or your teachers are following. But why does it have to be awkward? I mean, words like 'cock', 'bitch', 'boob', and 'ass' can all mean things unprofane, and don't forget the name 'Dick'.

I think that it is right to discourage children from using these words, as they don't know the implications of them... however, I don't see what the big deal is when we're older, so long as we don't use them maliciously, or lazily without other words at our perusal to express our vehemence, joy, pain or surprise. I guess often these words are used derogatively, profanely, in a socially disrespectful manner, but it just irks me slightly because they're only words, sticks and stones...

What do you think? What makes a word into a ‘bad’ word? How bad is too bad when it comes to normal, everyday conversation? Does it depend on who you're talking with? Where do we draw the line when writing in a public space, such as your blog?

7 comments:

Kate said...

I don;t have a problem with people swearing but awareness is important. Two men swearing loudly on a train the other day with children on made me glare at them. As for blogs I think swearing all the time dumbs the effect if that makes sense.

Kate xx
http://secretofficeconfessions.blogspot.com

Douglas said...

Swearing loses its impact when overdone. How does one know when it is overdone? When it it becomes just words in a sentence. I was a sailor and the stereotype of sailors and profanity is not really a stereotype. Every other word was likely to be a swear word and completely unnecessary. Since then I have determined that swearing means you have a limited vocabulary.

Michael said...

Kate: Swearing in public can get annoying when they're not talking about anything interesting - which is often the case. I don't mind a bit of a dirty conversation, or reading a few four-letter words on blogs, but like non-offensive words, like all vocabulary, the words must be used effectively for me to appreciate them.

Douglas: I guess there are only a few out there who have the vocabulary to 'back us up' when we do swear, eh?

vilges suola said...

Must disagree about the limited vocabulary. Mine is very far from limited, and I swear like a stevedore. Swearing reinforces what you are saying, and it is a linguistic resource I could not forgo. I hate middle-class prudery and caution, so swear all you like, I love dat fuckin shit, man.

Uniquely Charis said...

I never used a word like tat ti anyone. But if "shut up " cunts, then, maybe.
I think it's never right to say a bad word despite the situation that you are in as it will just make it worst.

Michael said...

Charis: What about: "Fuck, I'm getting married!" or "That was a really shitty movie..." I think it's a great tool if you don't mean any offence.

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